California is a dream destination - so much so that The Mamas and the Papas coined the phrase in their hit song ‘California Dreaming’. As a destination it has it all - from beautiful beaches, rugged coastline and ocean surf to rolling vineyards and snow-capped ski resorts. As US states go, California is one of the most diverse!
The state is home to many iconic landmarks from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the glamour of Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Barbara, and Montecito. California is all about the great outdoors and if its dramatic peaks you are after then head to Santa Cruz and the Big Sur. The State Route 1 runs from north to south along most of the Pacific coastline (1,056 kilometres in length) - it is one of the best routes if taking a road trip in California and for those wishing to explore the west coast of the Golden State. The whole of California offers exclusive hotels that capture the essence of California living.
The Business Class guide to the best hotels in California:
Post Ranch Inn – 10/10
Soaring above Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean, in Monterey, Post Ranch Inn offers a sanctuary for the soul. With over 40 guest rooms overlooking the ocean, mountains, and forest, one can truly immerse within nature. Each room is decorated in earthy tones with redwood panels and original art. Curved pacific suites command stunning sea views, while peak houses survey the Santa Lucia range. Ocean Houses with curved roofs carpeted in grass and Coast Houses provide a bolt hole with a cosy fireplace to sit beside and gaze out over the ocean.
Triangular-shaped Tree Houses elevated nine feet off the forest floor are a feast for the senses, while the Mountain House rooms boast peak views. Butterfly rooms have outstretched wings with king-sized rooms, a wood-burning fireplace, hot-tub and private deck. The magnificent South Coast House boasts two master bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, patio and tub. At the Sierra Mar restaurant, enjoy fine cuisine by Reylon Agustin who uses local ingredients in his dishes, complemented by 17,000 wines. And finally, the spa specialises in a ‘shaman journey’ for wellbeing.
Alila Napa Valley – 9/10
The Alila Napa Valley is a 68-guestroom hotel, located deep in wine country and is surrounded by the vineyards of the Beringer Estate Winery. This boutique hotel features the Acacia House restaurant, bar, outdoor swimming pool and Spa Alila and Fitness Centre. Acacia House features American cuisine but uses the finest local, organic, and sustainable ingredients from Napa itself. Spa Alila offers all the treatments you would expect from a world-class facility – and guests are carefully massaged and preened by highly trained aestheticians.
Napa is home to some of the most famous wineries in the world including Opus One and Screaming Eagle. No visit to the Alila would be complete without a visit – and indeed sampling session – in a local winery. Alila is a short distance from the city of St. Helena – nicknamed “Napa Valley’s Main Street” – which is filled with delightful restaurants, artisan producers and wine shops, of course.
San Ysidro Ranch – 9/10
Hidden away in the foothills of Santa Barbara is a town called Montecito, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle call home. But long before the Sussexes arrived, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spent summers in a Five Star Forbes rated hideaway called San Ysidro Ranch. Established in 1893, this resort was the wedding venue of Lawrence Olivier and Vivian Leigh and the Kennedy’s honeymooned in a cottage overlooking the ocean that now bears their name. This is just one of 38 exclusive private bungalow-style cottages set within manicured gardens encircled by towering sycamores and gnarled oaks for ultimate privacy. Inside, timeless elegance is woven throughout.
Each cottage is sprinkled with antiques and original artwork, Persian rugs, stone fireplaces and four poster beds. The property, owned by Ty Warner, has a choice of fine dining options, from the Stonehouse- a 19th-century citrus packing house with a roaring fireplace and outdoor terrace to the Carriage House with French doors leading to a secluded courtyard. Alternatively Indulge in private dining at the Old Adobe, dating back to 1825.
Rosewood Miramar – 9/10
Rosewood Miramar Beach stretches along the sandy coastline of Montecito. Miramar means ‘to behold the sea,’ and this perfectly describes this resort that overlooks the glimmering Pacific. Inspired by the beautiful homes and grand estates of Montecito, the resort’s flagship property Manor House features a grand curved staircase and the Cabana pool’s distinctive serpentine-edge design by the late Paul Williams. All 160 ultra-luxury rooms and 36 suites span 16 acres. There’s also 26 oceanfront beach house suites, studios and guestrooms that open out onto the sand with showstoppers being the Miramar Ocean View suite and the Ambassador Ocean View. Light and airy with a patio, a roomy dressing area, lavish bathrooms and awe-inspiring views of the garden, ocean, or mountainside.
Restaurants by Massimo Falsini include Caruso’s – an oceanfront Italian restaurant. Miramar Beach Bar an al fresco, oceanfront oasis and The Manor Bar featuring live music. Alternatively, sip refreshing cocktails at Cabana Bar and eat local cuisine at the Revere Room, while gazing over Miramar beach. At Sense, A Rosewood Spa guests can indulge in signature treatments, steam rooms and saunas.
Belmond El Encanto – 9/10
For timeless Hollywood charm in an idyllic location, look no further than the Belmond Encanto, just outside Santa Barbara. Hailing back to 1918 and exudes old school glamour that enchants all who visit. The terrace premier suite features a plush king size bed and living room with a central fireplace with French doors leading onto a private garden patio facing the rolling hills, sleeping up to three guests with a sofa bed and one bedroom suite, bathtub and living space.
Averaging 600 square feet of luxurious comfort. The garden bungalows offer true West Coast indulgence with open plan living areas, fireplaces and a king size bed and patio areas. Spanish colonial meets Californian craft in the premier king size rooms offering 625 square feet of luxurious accommodation for up to three guests. The terrace premier rooms showcase charming fireplaces as relaxing backdrops to warm evening conversations and furnished patios for tranquil views. Delight in romantic dinner under the stars on the terrace sampling contemporary California coastal cuisine or enjoy light dinner or afternoon tea in the lounge and Riviera Bar.
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Auberge du Soleil – 9/10
For French sophistication with California vibes head to Auberge du Soleil for an adults-only Napa Valley break. This 33-acre hillside olive grove retreat offers outstanding accommodation, fine cuisine and wine experiences. 100 kilometres north of San Francisco, you are away from the big smoke and firmly in rolling wine country. This five-star hotel has 50 rooms and suites. Choose from 29 Maison rooms adorned in art, with a fireplace and bathtub, 19 larger Maison suites with a separate living space, roaring fireplace and outdoor terrace. The 1,800 square-foot two-bedroomed Maison villas for families with living and dining space, wine storage and a private terrace with tub.
Established by Claude Rouas, this Relais & Châteaux hotel has a Michelin-star restaurant called the Rutherford run by Robert Curry, who sources local ingredients and upholds French culinary traditions. A casual bistro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner on the terrace. A couples spa suite offers a signature purification ritual or yoga. Wander in the sculptured garden, plunge in the pool or catch rays on the sun deck. Alternatively explore the valley by Mercedes Benz.
Bardessono – 9/10
Bardessono is in the middle of a vineyard in Yountville along Napa Valley. Established by an Italian family in 1926 who cultivated grapes, prunes and walnuts. Nowadays five acres of this land are home to the Bardessono Hotel & Spa. Accommodation is split between the Maple Grove Villas, Flint, Jasper and Quartole, with stately living rooms, a king bedroom, spa bathrooms and courtyard as well as a spacious dining room for entertaining.
All 62 guestrooms and suites have striking artwork, and many have an in-room luxury spa with massage tables, steam showers, soaking tubs and organic bath amenities. A spa butler delivers a full-body massages, couples’ treatments, facials, wraps, body polishes and runs an oil bath seasoned with bath salts. At the Spa Therapy Centre guests can select personal oil blends at the Well Bar inspired by seven wellness formulas - sleep, energy, balance, love, stress, detox, and muscle or ‘chakra gemstone’ anointed oils’ for chakra balancing. Soak pampered muscles in the rooftop pool/ hot tub and later take a spin in a private Lexus to get up close and personal to the Napa vines.
Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay – 9/10
Perched on an oceanside hill in San Francisco Bay, 30-minutes from Silicon Valley, is the idyllic oasis that is Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. This five-star resort has been a landmark since the 1900s and takes muse from North California’s rugged coastline with an emphasis on the outdoors. This is reflected in the outdoor firepits and opportunities to take walks along the beach, play a few rounds of golf, relax at the spa, or watch the sun set with a glass of wine.
Guests have their pick of accommodation options, from the 186 square metres Ritz Carlton two bedroomed suites with a fireplace and oceanside balcony, to the smaller signature suite peering over the golf course. Inside is a spacious living/dining room. The luxury fire pit suite is perfect for long California nights socialising and toasting marshmallows. Navio serves seafood all week and brunch at the weekends. Meanwhile, the modern beach house-inspired Conservatory restaurant serves California-infused signature cuts paired with cocktails. The Ocean Terrace offers unparalleled sunset views of the Pacific Ocean, California beers and wines and a chance to toast your feet by a fire pit.
Hotel del Coronado – 9/10
Minutes from downtown San Diego, Hotel del Coronado has panoramic Californian coastline views and suites that offer a range of cultures side-by-side. The Victoria is characterised by Queen Anne architecture, soaring red turrets and conical rooftops rising out of the sand. Opt for a bijou one-room studio with an oceanfront view or a 600ft suite that sleep up to three. Alternatively, try funky cabanas - beachside rooms - with a terrace and fire pit or a poolside room. Another option is the gated community of the Beach Village, where the cottage horizon suite has a sprawling oceanfront balcony and outdoor tub for watching the sunset.
Rising at the southernmost point of the resort is the three-bedroomed Shore House development which allows guests to own their own properties along the coast. For eating out look no further than Serẽa, where chef JoJo Ruiz serves fresh local seafood that is grilled to perfection and served with hand-crafted cocktails, local brews and an eclectic wine selection. For glamour, visit the Babcock & Story Bar or have a signature cocktail at the Mahogany Bar. Fans of the 1959 blockbuster Some Like It Hot - Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis - will recognise this hotel has the one featured in the film.
Montage Laguna Beach - 9/10
Laguna beach on the coast of Orange County is paradise for ocean lovers and a mecca for art aficionados with film festivals, art fairs and dance performances galore. Montage Laguna Beach spans 30 acres with two outdoor pool decks, a 20,000-square-foot spa and three signature restaurants with spectacular views of the California coast. Guestrooms blend coastal influences with modern design. Ocean Horizon King Rooms have private patio balconies, and their main hotel location enables them to connect to ocean horizon king suites or queen rooms for larger families.
The 1,000 square-foot Ocean Coastal bungalow suites next to the beach accommodate four. Yet the piece de resistance is the three-bedroomed Villa Du Couchant, Villa Menton and Villa Du Soleill. Decorated in a coastal style these contain a chic living space and sweeping ocean vistas. Dining options include The Loft for stunning views and creative Californian cuisine, the Mosaic Bar & Grille for poolside barbecue fare and the Lobby Lounge for creative cocktails, an extensive wine list and select desserts. Meanwhile, the Spa Montage has wellness therapies, facials and body treatments galore.
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